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ISF Graduate / Jeremy L.

Jeremy Long.fwHometown:  Denver, CO

Name of ISF Mentor: Rod Marshall

What school were you attending with the help of an ISF scholarship?  
University of Northern Colorado in Greeley Colorado

What was your Major? Graduation date? Future job plans?
Bachelors in Communication, Minor in Economics, Graduated May 2010, Currently working for Bridging the Gap at Mile High United Way as a Youth Engagement Coordinator.

How did you first hear about ISF?
Foster Club (foster club.com)

What is the greatest benefit you have received from the ISF mentoring program?  The opportunity to step outside my comfort zone and converse with someone who had limited insight into the foster care system. We both reaped great benefits from the relationship. It was also nice to add someone to my network of mentors and know that I have the support of someone who really cares about my well being.

Can you give a brief testimonial describing what ISF meant to you as you pursued your degree?  ISF is hands down one of the best non – profit organizations available. They have a goal of helping youth who are in unfortunate situations realize their potential and provide them the opportunity to obtain their goals. ISF stepped in and helped me in the last year of my college career and fortunately it was perfect timing. I was gearing up for graduation with limited financial funds and ISF was right there to help me get my head back above water. They gave me the support I needed, both financially and in a mentorship position. I am very thankful for the help that ISF provided me. It helped me successfully complete my four year bachelor’s degree.

Since Graduation:  Jeremy continues to dedicate his life goal to making sure that all youth in child serving systems are granted the same opportunities to education, financial security, and personal support that was offered to him by his foster mother. Jeremy currently serves as the Assistant Director for Youth, Driven, Inc. (YDI) and the Youth Engagement Coordinator for the Mississippi Transitional Outreach Project (MTOP; organizations working with youth between the ages of 14-21 who have been diagnosed with an SED (severe emotional disorder). Jeremy oversee’s the day to day operations of YDI and manages the youth engagement at three project sites in different areas of Mississippi. Jeremy is nothing more than proud to be able to give back to a system that helped him achieve the success that he has. Jeremy has a passion for seeing youth in any system succeed and enjoys working in the non-profit sector.”

Jeremy’s Story:

As a child growing up in a broken home, it was extremely hard for me to create and hold onto healthy relationships. It was very difficult to stay in touch with any school friends or neighbors. Until entering foster care at age 12, I had no idea what a healthy relationship was supposed to look like. I was kidnapped from my mom by my dad at the age of five. For two years I was put through hell. My dad tortured me mentally, physically, and emotionally by not allowing me to eat, sleep, or use the bathroom. If allowed to sleep, I slept on a filthy couch where the dog slept. The “room” they dead bolted me into was a box-filled storage space. My dad’s girlfriend drilled holes in the doors so she could spy on me making sure that I did not sit or lay on the floor.

After two years of torture I was finally returned to my mom. When I arrived at my mom’s house she was so excited to see me that she would not let me out of her arms. I was just as excited to see her because I was finally away from the abuse; but after just a few good years with my mom, the abuse started again. She became an alcoholic and a prostitute. She would bring home random men on a nightly basis who would verbally abuse me. When drunk she would get mad at me and begin throwing objects such as glass cups, forks, knives and anything else she could get her hands on. Luckily I was able to dodge the objects, but as an eleven-year-old it was scary. She also had a bad habit of driving under the influence, which caused us to get into multiple car accidents. My mom would spend her entire paycheck on alcohol that resulted in us being evicted from our homes and my mom losing her jobs. After losing our last house we moved in with one of my sisters. On my twelfth birthday my mom found a trucker and left for California.

Because of the abuse I was put through as a child I was not able to get close to anyone when I entered foster care. I had a lot of issues when it came to trusting anyone and it was especially hard for me to trust men since all I went through with my dad was two years of bad experiences.

I remember a conversation that I had with my foster mom when I entered the home at age 12. She assured me, unless I chose differently, that I would stay in the same high school all four years. I was very excited to hear this. As time went on my foster mom continuously introduced me to her friends and family. I began trusting people again and was able to feel that I wasn’t in danger of losing everything. I never had the ideal family to look up to. That all changed when my foster mom had introduced me to one of her friend’s son. Our relationship grew quickly since we were on the same cycling team and since our parents were good friends. We soon became inseparable, and we would spend quite a bit of time at each other’s houses. This is where I began noticing what an ideal family was supposed to look like. I looked up to my best friend’s dad as the man I should role model. Having that role model really helped me mature.

Entering foster care required me to create my own family – which was surprisingly easy. I quickly became accepting of my situation realizing that where I was in life was where I fit best. I was happy, loved and for once, stable. This was only possible with the support and encouragement that I consistently received from my newfound family. My best friend’s family has supported me as if I were one of their own. This support has shaped my values and morals and has heightened my sense of maturity shaping me into the man I am today.